Lyric Theatre

213 W. 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Lyric Theatre exterior

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The Lyric Theatre was built in 1903 and designed by Victor Hugo Koehler. The theater had two entrances, the larger facade being on the 43rd Street side, in a mix of Renaissance Revival styles, and the smaller facade, resembling a brownstone mansion, on 42nd Street. Both were heavily decorated with sculpture, including figures of goddesses, masks, and of course, lyres. The Adam/Empire style interior of the theater featured an auditorium with two balconies, 18 boxes, and gilded plasterwork. The color scheme was originally light green and rose.

The Lyric Theatre was initially to have been leased to composer Reginald DeKoven as home to his American School of Opera, but the school went bankrupt before the theater was completed. It ended up being leased instead to the Shubert brothers as a legitimate stage. The Lyric Theatre ended its legitimate days in 1934. In order to survive during the Depression, it joined many other 42nd Street houses in becoming a movie theatre.

The Lyric Theatre remained a movie house into the 1990’s (by which time it was in poor shape) until in 1996, after its remaining architectural elements were removed, it joined the neighboring Apollo Theatre in being razed, replaced by the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, which fragments of both the Lyric Theatre and Apollo Theatre were reused in. Both 42nd and 43rd Street facades of both the Lyric Theatre and Apollo Theatre were also retained. Former Cineplex Odeon baron Garth Drabinsky envisioned the $36 million Ford Center as a home for his production of “Ragtime”, and would be the first new free-standing legitimate house built in Times Square in over 70 years. The Ford Center for the Performing Arts was later renamed the Hilton Theatre, and in 2011 became the Foxwoods Theatre.

Some of the information here was found in the books “Lost Broadway Theatres” by Nicholas Van Hoogstraten and “Broadway Theatres” by William Morrison.

Contributed by Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 104 comments)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on June 15, 2013 at 8:20 pm

As late as 1965 the Lyric was still “premiering” motion pictures albeit smutty ones:

Per NY Times 8/12/65: BOB HOPE, get some soap and scrub out that blue humor! “I’ll Take Sweden,” which United Artists opened yesterday at the midtown Lyric Theater, is altogether unworthy of a beloved sunshine man who has cheered millions. The picture is an altogether asinine little romp, laboriously eking out a winding trail of sexual innuendoes, with some pasted-on backgrounds of Sweden and much mad racing in and out of bedrooms. And it couldn’t be duller or more obvious.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on June 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm

It was also showing on Loews showcase all over town.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 7, 2014 at 11:37 pm

I am happy to report that this theater has new owners and since the contract with Foxwoods is over, they are re-naming this house —wait for it — the Lyric.

(Article is in the New York Times 3/7/14.)

I would have preferred it being called the Lyric Apollo, but the Lyric is the best name this theater has had in years!

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on March 8, 2014 at 2:41 am

Thanks, saps. I know its not the same but brought a smile to face. Been there many times including I’ll Take Sweden.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 8, 2014 at 6:46 am

I can’t seem to link the Times article so here is its excerpted text, the parts dealing with the theater itself:

Broadway’s next mega-budget show, the Australian musical “King Kong,” will no longer open as planned at the Foxwoods Theater next winter, which will instead become home to a revival of the musical comedy “On the Town,” the producers of both shows said in separate statements on Thursday. At the same time, the theater’s new leaseholders announced they were renaming the 1,900-seat house – one of Broadway’s biggest – to the Lyric.

The new landlords of the Lyric, the London-based Ambassador Theater Group, could have waited for “King Kong,” but the theater has been empty since January after the closing of “Spider-Man.” No theater owner wants to have an empty house for a year or more, especially after paying roughly $60 million to take over the lease, as Ambassador Theater Group did. A spokesman for the company said that its co-chief executive and point person for the Lyric, Howard Panter, was not available for an interview and that the organization had no comment.

The “On the Town” producers plan to put all 1,900 of the Lyric’s seats on sale, according to a spokesman for the show. “Spider-Man,” which struggled to fill seats late in its three-year run, ended up closing off some rows and shrinking the capacity of the theater to 1,600 seats.

The Lyric has been renamed following the end of a sponsorship deal last year between the Foxwoods casino and the theater’s previous landlord, Live Nation. The theater has a reputation for feeling cavernous and having acoustic challenges and has been home to a string of unprofitable shows including “Spider-Man,” “The Pirate Queen” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” The theater opened in 1998 after combining two spaces – the Lyric, a Broadway theater-turned-movie house, and the Apollo Theater. The new space was named the Ford Center for the Performing Arts; the name was later changed to the Hilton, and then the Foxwoods.

robboehm
robboehm on March 8, 2014 at 7:12 am

Ragtime did very well early on. I didn’t have a problem with the acoustics (does that really matter in a day when everything is overmiked?) and didn’t really find it cavernous, just unappealing.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 8, 2014 at 4:01 pm

I get the criticism, however. The theater swallowed up a lot of the comedy in Mel Brooks' musical version of “Young Frankenstein.” Admittedly, the show and production did have a few intrinsic problems of their own that had nothing to do with the house, but I felt that the size of the theater (as opposed to the smaller Richard Rodgers, where the more successful – and funnier – “The Producers” ran), caused the performances to reach even bigger and broader than is Brooks' usual style to sell the jokes up in the rafters, which squashed the life out of the humor. The set pieces looked wonderful on that big stage, however.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 8, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Oh, and I’m thrilled to have the name back in place over that marquee. Fitting, since the original Lyric’s entrance serves the same purpose for the new house.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 24, 2014 at 5:52 pm

So, the theatre was re-christened sometime in the last week or so. I have pics I’ve uploaded showing some of the new signage.

robboehm
robboehm on August 25, 2014 at 7:34 am

Glad they went with Lyric. The remaining facade on 43 Street is what it’s all about.

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